You practically need a credential to give childbirth these days...Find more of my humor columns about family life here:
You practically have to have a credential to have a baby these days. I went to childbirth classes when I was pregnant with both my children. I read books, attended seminars, even joined a "group."
I learned about the Lamaze and Bradley methods and the LeBoyer bath. I could recognize Braxton-Hicks contractions and do a Kegal on command.
I looked forward to engorgement and hoped my "let down reflex" was up to par. I worried about "transition" and dreaded the "ring of fire." I hoped my kid would give a good anterior presentation and pass his Apgar test.
I decided against circumcision, requested no episiotomy and insisted my husband hold my hand. I knew when to huff, when to puff, and when to hunker down.
I even learned about a part of my body I didn't know existed. I'll bet you dollars to donuts that no woman out there who's never had a baby can put her finger on just where her perimeum is.
But no book, class or seminar could answer the two questions that loomed largest in my mind: "How much will it hurt?" and "Will I be able to take it?"
I remember when I was about seven months pregnant with my first child, my best friend Jane asked me, in all sincerity, "Don't you worry about all the blood and guts and terrible wracking pain?"
You have to understand Jane. She wasn't trying to be mean. She really wanted to know.
I told her I tried not to think about it. If it good too bad, there was always the miracle of drugs.
But the truth was, I thought about it a lot. Would I make a fool of myself? Would my husband see me make a fool of myself? Would they have to tie me down? Would it last two hours or 20? Would I be able to do it without drugs?
When I told my friend Wanda, who lives in New Orleans, that drugs during labor were discouraged in my class she said, "Wow! You Californians must be into pain!"
I considered leaving the state.
I tried to console myself by eyeing haggard mothers in the supermarket. "If she can do it, so can I."
But the thought that brought me the most solace came from Sheila Kitzinger's Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth. Kitzinger said some women had told her that having a baby was like having sex.
"You will probably have an overpowering urge to bear down and press the baby through the birth canal," Kitzinger said. "This is passionate, intense, thrilling and often completely irresistible, and for some women, it is the nearest thing to overwhelming sexual excitement."
I told my friend Joe, whose wife had labored 17 hours with a breech baby before having a Cesarean, what I had read. He just looked at me sadly and sadly shook his head, whispering a barely audible "no."
Still, it was a concept, and I was willing to run with it. After all, so many things depend on your state of mind. I just had to get psyched up. I must have read that passage 50 times.
The funny thing is that when it came down to the wire, all that preparation didn't do me much good. My mind went blank. Well, almost blank, except for one burning question: "Is is over yet?"
For the record, I did make it through without drugs, but not by choice. I was begging for a shot of something, anything, when the doctor came in to announce, "It's too late. the baby was born an hour ago."
I really think the best thing about the modern methods of childbirth is they make your husband go. That's good--not so he can share in the joyous moment of birth, but so he can appreciate the hell you've been through. I figured it was worth at least a couple of breakfasts in bed. I was right.
And now that I've actually experienced childbirth, I'd like to reassure all you uninitiated women out there. It wasn't that bad. I'd even go so far as to say Kitzinger was right: Having a baby is a lot like having sex--with a moose.